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Efforts by Woodburn-area firefighters, working with Love Santa, will help feed families in need over the holiday season.

COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - December 5 furnished clear blue skies for firefighters as they masked up and collected donations to help provide food to needy families over the holidays.Woodburn-area firefighters raised $6,860 during the annual, yet adjusted, food drive held over the first weekend in December.

The money raised helps Love Santa, Inc., fill 450 food boxes for families in need. Each food box contains about $100 worth of essential food items: peanut butter, canned soup, meat, fruits and vegetables, pasta, potatoes and eggs.

In a year that has seen normal activity necessarily curtailed to minimize the effects of a global pandemic, firefighters welcomed this opportunity not only to contribute, but to interact safely with the community.

"The fundraising drive went better than expected; everything went according to plan or even better," Woodburn Fire District volunteer James Audritsch said. "Our firefighters had so much fun interacting with the community from a safe distance that it is difficult to put into words. We had some of our equipment out on display, so when a donation was made, we could talk about the equipment and not just about collecting money."COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Volunteers perched at multiple locations on December 5 as Woodburn-area firefighters collected monetary donations in lieu of the traditional food drive through neighborhoods.

Although in the past the food drive would wind through neighborhoods in a colorful procession of public safety rigs, the current pandemic climate precluded that this year. In lieu of that, firefighters set up donation sites at the Woodburn Fire District main station, and in the parking lots at the Woodburn Premium Outlet Mall, Bi-Mart, Woodburn Estates & Golf and St. Agnes Church in Hubbard to collect monetary donations.

"This was a great opportunity for some of our newest members and our younger students to talk up the fire department. They are used to only seeing the community from an emergency standpoint. This time, they were able to introduce them elves, talk about what they enjoy and what training they had received as a member of the department," Audritsch said.

Beyond donations, the event featured a number of photo ops for youngsters around the fire equipment.

Audtritsh said there were around 40 participants, ranging from firefighters to CERT members at the various collection locations.

"The weather played a huge roll in our success; it was a clear and beautiful day to be out in the community," Audritsch said.COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Woodburn Premium Outlets was among the sites where area firefighters collected donations for a food drive on December 5. The drive helps Love Santa deliver 450 food boxes to area families.

WFD spokeswoman Korrin Petersen said that 2020 has been a challenging year for many people.

"Activities that many of us look forward to every year have been placed on hold or canceled altogether. This year the annual firefighter food drive was no different," Petersen noted in a press release. "This did not deter the local fire districts from finding a way to help community members that are in need this holiday season."

Petersen stressed that donations can be made by mailing checks to Love Santa Inc. P.O. Box 875, Woodburn, OR 97071, or online at www.lovesantainc.org/donation.

Drive-through distribution centers are in the plans so families can receive food boxes on Saturday, Dec. 12.

"This is the 16th year that fire districts have partnered with Love Santa," Woodburn Fire Chief Joe Budge said. "We appreciate the opportunity to support this organization and help families in need throughout our communities."COURTESY PHOTO: WOODBURN FIRE DISTRICT - Woodburn-area firefighters collected thousands in donations to help Love Santa feed area families over the holiday season.


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